Lauren was born on December 29, 1992, a 6 lb 14 oz miracle. A rainbow baby after the passing of her brother Michael, who was born with Trisomy 22 and lived for 10 short days, and a miscarried baby shortly after. Lauren was an incredible blessing to her family, especially her mom.
Two years later, I was born and Lauren became a big sister. Our differences were so stark, it was comical. From our hair and eye color, to our personalities, we were night and day. She was the leader of the wolf pack that became three when our half sister, Leah, was born.
Lauren was a gifted learner from the beginning. She played piano exceptionally well by the age of 6, and completed the entire Harry Potter series by the age of 8. I always felt a mix of pride and fear on my first day of school. My new teacher would read my name, look at me, and smile, “Are you Lauren’s sister?” I would proudly say yes, walk back to my seat and think, ‘Oh boy, another year of busting my butt to keep up the Vitrano name.’ Lauren began her life of helping me without evening realizing it. I do not believe I would have succeeded in anything in my life had it not been for my need to keep up with Lauren. I owe every accomplishment to her.
Her advancement did not stop at her academics. While earning the highest honors throughout grammar school at St. Symphorosa, she excelled in every sport she participated in. Lauren was involved in four sports by age 12, and helped lead her softball team to win the all-star state championship that year.
The group of friends Lauren made in kindergarten became her friends for life. For many, as life continues and people grow apart, her circle grew by numbers and by strength.Lauren decided to continue her Catholic education by attending Queen of Peace High School with many of her friends. Although Lauren continued to play sports her freshman year, she found that her true passion was in Cheerleading. Sophomore year, she tried out and made the competitive team for St. Rita high school. Lauren worked tirelessly to be the very best, and it showed.
At the age of 16, Lauren decided that she wanted to become a pharmacist. That year she applied for, and was accepted into the Midwestern University Pharmacy Career Explorers program. Her academic success only continued to climb. She graduated in the top ten of her class, was named an Illinois State Scholar, received multiple academic scholarships, and was accepted into the pre-pharmacy program every college she applied for including Illinois, Wisconsin-Madison, and Purdue.
Lauren began her undergraduate journey at Purdue, where she stayed for a year before deciding to come home to continue her education at a community college. She secured a job as a pharmacy technician at Walgreens. Two years later, she was accepted into both Midwestern and UIC Pharmacy schools. She decided to call UIC’s medical campus her home for the next four years.
To all of our surprise, Lauren pledged an academic fraternity, Kappa Psi, and made another amazing group of friends. She was named pledge of the year, a token to her dedication and commitment to the organization. By her P3 year, she was accepted into the Rho Chi honor society, and maintained a 3.9 GPA. Lauren was on track to graduate Summa Cum Laude in May, 2018. She was in the process of accepting a full-time Pharmacist position at Walgreens when she took her life on October 9, 2017.
Not every story has a happy ending.
If you’re looking for the part where I spontaneously reveal that Lauren grew up in a drug ridden home, was raised by an alcoholic, was bullied, beaten, and neglected, you are reading the wrong story.
Lauren experienced none of that; she was cherished, respected, and loved. Lauren suffered from a manageable amount of anxiety all of her life characterized by her perfectionism and introverted nature, but she never allowed it to hinder reaching her next goal. The greatest shortcoming caused by her anxiety was her constant need of approval from others. For when you feel as though you are inadequate, you go to dire lengths to prove otherwise to everyone. This very quality is what caused Lauren to magnetize to those who could control her mentally and emotionally without her ever realizing it. She found comfort in catering to the every need of someone who did respect her, and did not love her the way she deserved to be loved.
Lauren was victimized by a narcissist for almost seven years.
When the mistreatment Lauren faced began going public, she found the strength to finally leave him. Her anger kept her moving. She fought to move on from it but when she moved home, her strength had exhausted and she broke. We tried everything we could to cheer her up, we had no idea how deep her pain truly was. When we realized we didn’t have the ability to help her ourselves, we sought out the help of medical professionals.
Her doctors failed her.
She was finally diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and was prescribed medication with a known side effect of suicidal thoughts and actions. Her follow up instructions were to email her primary care physician in two weeks, one dosage adjustment, and another email a week later. 11 times my mother and I called the psychiatry department in the matter of a week to aid in getting her a follow up appointment with a department that was better equipped to help. To this day we were never called back. Her primary care physician wrote her a psych referral after her second appointment.
The psychiatrist called Lauren back four months later, six days after she died
When Lauren decided that suicide was her only option, she did not stay silent about it. She cried for help, she explicitly laid out her intentions, but she only told one person. The person she told decided it was in his best interest to keep her intentions to himself. If anyone was going to save her, it had to be him.
He had failed her, one final time
Suicide never crossed my mind because my version of Lauren was the top half of the story. How could someone so beautiful, so kind, so intelligent, ever give that up for the permanency of death? How did she let someone affect her so deeply it made her feel as if she was nothing and had nothing to offer the world? From the outside looking in, I only caught glimpses of the torment of her relationship, the story or two she let slip over the second glass of wine. I didn’t see the extent of the pain until scrolling through the texts she left for me to see on an unlocked phone and passwordless computer. She finally wanted me to know, but not until it was too late.
She didn’t deserve to die
I do not share her story with the intention of defaming her abuser, or to maintain the innocency of myself, my mom, my family, and her friends. I share it because what happened to Lauren can happen to anyone. That it does not take the severity of physical abuse, rape, and poverty to cause one to end their life. All it took for Lauren was a misinterpreted and warped sense of love.
One page on a blog is not enough to summarize my sister’s life. I can spend days going on about her volunteer work, her class projects, her awards, and her honors. Lauren lived more, did more, and learned more in 24 years than some people do in their entire life. I take comfort in that. The better half of Lauren’s life was filled with amazing friends, memories, and a family that loved her dearly. She will be remembered by everyone for the light she brought into everyone’s lives.
I take comfort in knowing that Lauren is now at peace, that she will no longer have to endure the pain. That she is in Heaven watching over us
Please click here to continue reading Lauren’s legacy.